The land of ice and snow: Fincher’s Dragon Tattoo

David Fincher’s masterful take on Stieg Larsson’s The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo is an icy, ruthless, ethereal, visceral, dark and violent movie, powered by heart and humanity.

The opening credits are wildly inventive, an extraordinary, visionary sequence set to Trent Reznor and Karen O’s thrillingly high-velocity cover of Led Zeppelin’s Immigrant Song that perfectly encapsulates everything the movie is about in a twistedly brilliant 2 minutes 45 seconds. From here Fincher shows absolute command over his material, delivering a profoundly great crime movie that flies through its almost three hour running time. In the final, haunting moments, the ghost of Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’s soundtrack drifts like breath in frozen air into a beautiful cover version of Bryan Ferry’s Is Your Love Strong Enough. The cover is by Reznor’s other band, How To Destroy Angels. They transform Ferry’s original into an icy lullaby, a tremulous, haunting dream that slow-burns to an inferno.

Working from Steven Zaillian’s comprehensive yet extremely nimble screenplay, Fincher crafts a masterpiece, and draws performances of remarkable depth from all of his actors. Daniel Craig has never been better, all subtlety and nuance, cold blue eyes, impeccable styling, brisk to the point of ruthlessness, warmth flickering over the cracking ice of his heart. But the movie truly belongs to Rooney Mara. She dissolves into the role, disappearing completely in a way that rarely truly happens. She vanishes into the iconic character like Heath Ledger did with The Joker, with total psychological, emotional and physical commitment. Her performance is startling, raw, and mesmerizing.

Throughout, Reznor and Ross’s score drifts over the proceedings like the coldest snow, steadily and beautifully falling through an increasingly howling wind. They won the Oscar for Best Soundtrack for Fincher’s The Social Network; it would be a crime if they didn’t win it again for this.

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo is a beautifully sculpted, stylish thriller that, even with the epic grandeur of its visual and sonic architecture, moves incredibly quickly and deftly through the complexities of its narrative structure. It is, quite simply, brilliant, gripping and hugely entertaining from start to finish.

Terminator Mode

It’s been a Swedish kind of week. I feel like I owe Stieg Larsson.

Here’s how it played out: low key, lots of coffee, read the last few chapters of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, completed the entirety of The Girl Who Played With Fire, started The Girl Who Kicked The Hornets’ Nest, watched the Dragon Tattoo movie on DVD, and saw the Played With Fire movie in a beautiful old-school cinema like the ones I would go to in the summer when I was a teenager, taking a break from the books I was reading to go and sit in the dark and see other worlds (once the strangely loud local ads were finished running).

But… I also found out the wonderful news that I’m getting a story published in the Momaya Annual Review anthology. The story is called Love Like A Shooting Star Across The Dream-Night Of The World. It’s about dreaming of worlds and making them real, searching for truth, giving yourself to your feelings, and never giving up.

In some ways, this is what Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy is about, and this is also a good way to think of the existence of a writer: we’re mystery-solving, obsessive fighters for new worlds. One of the sections of The Girl Who Played With Fire is entitled Terminator Mode; it’s perfect for that point in the story, and it got me thinking.

As writers, we must always be in terminator mode: we must not stop, ever, until we get want we want. Whether this is publication, a TV, film or stage production, or jokes in a routine, we must pursue it relentlessly and unflinchingly. We need to dream it and then make it real. We have to go to the third dream level every day and plant our ideas, achieve Inception. It can be dangerous and exhausting and requires infinite patience, adrenaline and verve. As someone once said, there’s a word that describes writers who never give up: PUBLISHED. You could insert “hired on a TV show” and “got a movie script made” there also. It’s talent plus luck plus persistance. This is the writer’s trinity. Creating and constructing a dream-reality is a painstaking, deliberate and sometimes overwhelming task. These dreams become real with many thousands of accumulating elements. They coalesce in small increments: a story published here, a script reaching the semi-finals of a contest there. (Thanks to sitcom screenwriter and blogger Evan Shaw for the increment idea). These increments are always deeply meaningful, because each one gets us closer to that promised land. There’s another blog to be written about the journey being the destination, but that’s another story: this one’s about that destination, arriving at the citadel of accomplished dreams.

Making It.

And the only way we can do that is to act like Lisbeth Salander and James Cameron’s Terminator. We must always be in terminator mode. We must be relentless until we get there. And even then, because this is what we do, we’ll dream the next reality, and we’ll fight our way towards it.